Books We Love – Summer Reading Recommendations from Our Community

in Summer 2022 by

One of my favorite parts about walking into a locally owned bookstore is reading handwritten staff recommendations that are taped below books on display. The endorsements often highlight a book I would never have found otherwise, and their comments about who might enjoy the book are often more helpful than a generic online review. Mutual appreciation for a good mystery or comedic read can be a source of connection and conversation with others. 

Books have the power to transport us, whether it’s to another time, someone else’s perspective, or another world entirely. They can make us laugh out loud or help us better understand others. They can be a foundation for processing current events or a way to care for ourselves by giving our minds a break from our lives or the news.

We asked the Park community to share books they’ve enjoyed so we can help each other rediscover the magic, escapism and delight of a good summer read. These personal recommendations complement the Park Picks website of “very good, very readable, and at times very important fiction and non-fiction for the adult reader”, which we also recommend checking out as you form your own summer reading list. We have included content advisories whenever readers noted a potentially challenging theme, but if you want to ensure the absence of a specific topic I recommend The StoryGraph website which crowd sources their content advisories and is more comprehensive.

This year, Park purchased a book a day by a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color author or illustrator for the library collection. Be sure to check out the BIPOC 365 collection for more good reading ideas!

Wondering where to get these marvelous reads?  The Park Parent Association has had great experiences ordering from Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury, and Park parent Andrea Chiang (‘25, ‘27) is part owner of the new bookstore  Hummingbird Books in Chestnut Hill.  You can also check out your favorite library, and don’t forget that parents are welcome to borrow digital titles through their student’s Park Library Account!

In addition, Park faculty and staff will be reading these books over the summer:

Did That Just Happen? by Stephanie Pinder-Amaker
Neuro Teach by Glenn Whitman
Two for One Teaching by Lauren Porosoff

Ready to stop doom-scrolling negative reviews and pick up a book someone else at Park has loved? In alphabetical order, here are the recommendations! 

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Recommended by Randy Schmidt (Grade 4 Teacher)

If you loved The Overstory, Powers’ 2019 tree-centric novel (that was about so much more than trees), you’ll love this almost-sequel (parallel sequel?) featuring a widowed father and his son. 

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Recommended by Randy Schmidt (Grade 4 Teacher) and Merle Jacobs (Director of Admissions 2007-2022 and Parent ‘04)

Such an amazing story about the power of stories, using a “lost” Greek text that connects a diverse cast of adults and children across time. Just magical.

This novel follows five characters who span 6 centuries and all share the love of one story. It’s a terrific, inventive and absorbing novel for anyone who enjoys the magic of storytelling. 

Content advisory: There are some dark parts (not too much) but ultimately it’s very uplifting!

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chang

Recommended by Susan Bogue Myslik (English Teacher 6-8, English Department Head)

“People are made of stories. Our memories are not the impartial accumulation of every second we’ve lived; they’re the narrative that we assembled out of selected moments.”  This is one of MANY quotes that I copied into my journal while reading this book!  I am not usually a fan of science fiction, but this collection had me rapt.  Chang is a master storyteller, and though some stories are more engaging than others (both the title story “Exhalation”  and “The Merchant at the Alchemist’s Gate” were standouts), this book stayed with me long after closing the cover. 

Note – The Merchant at the Alchemist’s Gate is also  available on audio via the LeVar Burton Reads Podcast.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Recommended by Kelly Caiazzo (Parent ‘25, ‘26)

The Goblin Emperor is a beautifully written medium-paced stand-alone fantasy novel that is more about politics and intrigue than magic. The main character unexpectedly inherits a throne after living a life in exile, and the story arc follows him as he unflinchingly navigates a toxic political world without compromising his own morals. World building is easy to follow, though readers might appreciate referencing the naming guide in the back of the book. Excellent for anyone who wants to lose themselves in a different world with a truly honorable main character who is a delight to watch come into his own.

Content advisory: Mentions past child abuse and loss of a parent, not primary themes

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Recommended by Susan Bogue Myslik (English Teacher 6-8, English Department Head)

Susan writes: “I read this in the middle of the lockdown. It was fascinating and poignant to read about another pandemic (AIDS) during the current Covid crisis. This book is gorgeously written with a page-turning narrative and incredibly vivid, engaging characters. I couldn’t put it down… even as I cried through the hard parts!” 

Content advisory: This book confronts the AIDS crisis in the 80’s with unflinching honesty. 

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Recommended by Amy Saltonstall

This is just a great read set in 1950’s India about Lakshmi, a strong, independent woman who defies the conventions of class and social expectations.   Its also part of a trilogy and going to be a Netflix series!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Recommended by Heather Offen (Science Teacher 6-8, Growth Education Department Head)

Heather writes, “This books combines what I love in fiction books: good storytelling, exciting storylines, time travel… while I did feel the end was a bit predictable, I enjoyed reading about the main character’s experience.” 

Content advisory: The main character does deal with the death of her family members at times. 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Recommended by Tracy Richmond (Parent ‘25, ‘23)

It’s a little slow getting started but eventually transports you to Naples and inside a complicated friendship.

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

Recommended by Erika Faires (Parent ‘28, ‘30)

Northern Spy is a compelling and beautifully descriptive story of two sisters in Belfast, Northern Ireland and their involvement, intentional or not, with the contemporary IRA.  The story is equal parts wonderfully warm and terrifyingly chilling. The relationship between the sisters, their mother, and one sister’s infant son are vibrant and relatable. The audiobook is narrated by Katharine Lee McEwan and, Erica writes, “I would highly recommend listening to this one!”

Our Little World by Karen Winn

Recommended by Amanda Teo (Parent ‘27, ‘29)

A debut novel by Boston mom Karen Winn, Our Little World is a can’t-put-down thriller/coming-of-age novel set in 80’s New Jersey. There are family secrets, sibling rivalries, and a vanished child . . . all the elements of a great beach read.

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

Recommended by Bob Little (Director of Athletics 1997-2022)

Bob Little says, “I’m trying to get through the books before binging the shows on Netflix. Really good historical fiction!!”

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Recommended by Nancy Popper (Art Teacher, Art Department Head)

This book plays with the idea of a reimagined world history and resulting trajectory. Nancy says, “I was intrigued by the parallel reality built over time in this story that spans decades and generations. There was so much happening through the course of the book – love story, science fiction, social commentary, environmental disaster. Months later I often find myself thinking about this story.”

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Recommended by Suzy Akin (Director of Strategic Marketing & Communication)

It’s a beautifully poetic and sometimes heartbreaking fantasy with a lead character you can’t help but love, whose perspective on the world emanates “simplicity and sincerity.” At the same time, it’s a mystery and an adventure story.

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Recommended by  Amanda Teo (Parent ‘27, ‘29)

The School of Good Mothers imagines a not-distant future in which women who have transgressed society’s expectations of what a good mother is are sent to a reeducation camp where they must learn how to mother “the right way” before they can possibly earn back access to their kids. It’s a compelling and dark page-turner, in the genre of Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale or Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, that plays out how the heteronormative and racist conventions of what it is to be a woman and a mother create a literal and metaphorical prison. 

Content advisory: If you are really angry about the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe, you may need to take a breath before taking on this novel.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Recommended by Tiffany Hogan (Parent ‘24)

Why it’s great: Well-written fiction book to get lost into–has glamour, drama, scandal, fun!

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Recommended by Gini Goodwin (Grade 2 Teacher)

Gini says, “This heartfelt book is one of my favorites. Every educator and parent should read it. I couldn’t put it down.”

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Recommended by Madeline Welty (Grade 1 Teacher)

The writing and descriptions are wonderful on top of it just being a great story!

The parent volunteers on the Park Parent Editorial Board write articles on current events at the School and matters of interest to the Park community for this quarterly newsletter. We are always looking to grow our team of volunteer writers and photographers. If you are interested in learning more, please contact TheParkParent@parkschool.org